First Isthmian League Game: Ilford 1-0 St Albans City. 25th August 1923

1923 24 Champions

St Albans City 1923-24:

Bert Sansom, Ted Barnes, Fred Holland

Ted Keightley (trainer), Percy Bird, Harold Figg, Fred Hellicar, Willian J. Green (hon. sec.), Sid Duller

Fred Dear, George Biswell, Wilfred Minter, Ted Miller, Redvers Miller

Following the formation of St Albans City in April 1908, we competed in both the Herts County League and Spartan League during our first two seasons. When the Spartan League expanded in 1910 we left the County League for our Reserve team to deal with. In 1920/21, our second season after the war, we joined the Athenian League and spent just three years with the Athenians before being accepted into the Isthmian League

Having been champions of the Athenian League for two seasons and runners up in our final year, the club was confident that it could do well at the highest level of amateur football. Prior to the first game on 25th August, two trial matches had been staged at Clarence Park in which around 50 hopefuls turned out for either the “Whites” or the “Stripes.” Many of the trialists were signed to the Reserve team while Bert Sansom and Fred Dear, formerly of Watford Corinthians and Welwyn respectively, were added to the First team.

Our first opponents in the Isthmian League were Ilford. Starting our campaign at Newbury Park was a formidable proposition. Ilford, founder members of the league in 1905, had won the championship in 1921 and 1922, and also won 4-0 at Clarence Park in the Amateur Cup on New Year’s Day 1921. We did not lose to another amateur club until February 1922.

City headed to Ilford on the 1.02pm train from the Midland (City) Railway Station and then on from Liverpool Street Station at 2.23pm (kick off 3.30pm). Supporters were invited to join the team on the train and were informed that the walk from Ilford Station to the ground would take more than 15 minutes. For those unable to travel to the game, the Herts Advertiser would display the result outside their offices in Dagnall Street, and the outcome would also be announced at other points around the city.

A crowd of close on 4,000 greeted the two sides onto the pitch and saw the City captain Fred Dear lose the toss to Ilford’s F.Duffin who chose to play the first half with a wind to the back of his team. The game was described by the Herts Advertiser as full of thrills with the City believing that they had struck the first blow when Ted Miller touched the ball past Ilford goalkeeper Collins. Ilford defender Rayes got back to hack the ball away but not, according to the City players, before it had crossed the goalline. The referee deemed the ball to have not crossed the line and our first goal in the Isthmian League was put on hold.

The game was decided in Ilford’s favour 16 minutes from time when a long ball to Lucas sent the winger clear. Harold Figg appealed in vain for offside and could only look on as the ball was laid square for Ford to get the Essex club’s season off to a winning start.

While the First team were taking their bow in the Isthmian League at Newbury Park, the Reserves were also making their debut in the Reserve Section with Ilford’s second string visiting Clarence Park . Inspired by a hat-trick from captain Fred Jenkins, our Reserves got off to a storming start with a 5-2 victory in front of more than a thousand spectators.

A lot of work had been carried out during the summer to upgrade Clarence Park . This included; finishing off internal and external improvements to the main stand, an asphalt path running the full length of the stand, and toilets behind the railway sleeper terrace at the lower end of the ground. The club also now had a telephone, the main purpose of this being to inform spectators at Reserve team matches of how the First team was getting on.

Ilford: C.Collins; C.Stapley, A.Rayes; E.Gilderson, F.Blake, F.Duffin; W.Lucas, T.Lewis, H.Pakenham-Walsh, R.Potter, E.Ford. St Albans City: Ted Barnes; Fred Holland, Bert Sansom; Harold Figg, Percy Bird, Fred Hellicar; Fred Thorne, Fred Dear, Wilf Minter, Ted Miller, Redvers Miller. Referee: H.L. Godsall (New Southgate).

Last Isthmian League Game: Bedford Town 4-5 St Albans City. 8th May 2004

Formed in 1979 as the single-Division Alliance Premier League, the rebranded Football Conference expanded with two extra Divisions – North and South - for the start of the 2004-05 season. The clubs for Conference South were, mainly, drawn from the Isthmian League. However, due to finishing a lowly 19th at the end of 2003-04, St Albans City, under player/manager Steve Castle , faced the ordeal of play-off matches if we were to join the new league.

11 Miguel De Souza v Bedford TownComing into the play-offs at the semi-final stage, we defeated Heybridge Swifts 4-3 at Scraley Road in a match that saw Adam Parker score a hat-trick and our Kiwi international Chris Zoricich sent off. The win in Essex put us through to meet Bedford Town in the final at Meadow Lane with the winners leaving the Isthmian League to become founder members of Conference South. The 120 minutes at Heybridge had been an eventful but not wildly exciting affair, the final with The Eagles of Bedford was a classic to be recalled for years to come.

All of the omens going into the play-off final were in Bedford’s favour. Nick Platnuer’s side had completed the double over us and they went into the play-offs with an 8-0 win over 10th placed Bognor Regis Town that included a hat-trick for Dan French. In the semi-final play-off the Eagles beat Hitchin Town 3-1 at Meadow Lane having lost at home to the Canaries in the league just three weeks earlier. Leading the Bedford attack was Drew Roberts who, with 25 goals, was the highest scorer in the Isthmian League Premier Division.

Bedford made three changes from the win over Hitchin while Steve Castle brought in Miguel de Souza for the suspended Zoricich. The teams were welcomed onto the pitch by a crowd of 1,087, surprisingly it was only the second highest seen at Bedford that season – it was topped by the 1,174 that witnessed a Boxing Day defeat to Kettering Town.

The thrills started as early as the sixth minute with Greg Deacon firing City ahead with a generously deflected effort following a cross by Steve Watts. City continued on the front foot but were pegged back when Liam Folds headed home following a corner by French. Just after the half hour our hopes nosedived when Julian Capone, having been put through by Rene Howe, put Bedford ahead. Five minutes later and it looked all over for the large travelling support when Folds added a third Bedford goal with a diving header from a French free kick. In the remaining minutes of the half Bedford had chances to put us completely out of the game.

 Early in the second half Castle, a midfielder, brought himself on to replace right back Chris Seeby . Within seven minutes of his arrival Castle clipped in a free kick into the box that Player of the Season De Souza helped on and Parker nodded home. The tide had turned. Folds handled inside the home penalty area and allowed City’s top scorer Lee Clarke to stick away his ninth goal of the season to pull the sides level. Bedford’s fate looked to be sealed 15 minutes from time De Souza (above right) fired high into the Bedford net following another Castle free kick. But just five minutes later and it was all square once again at 4-4 when Roberts won a penalty and converted it past young City ‘keeper George Clark.

Extra time was looming large when the game moved into the first of nine minutes of injury time. During those first sixty seconds the outcome was decided. Chesting down a pass from Gary Wraight on the edge of the Bedford box, Steve Watts turned and clipped a curling effort across Eagles custodian Ian Brown and into the far corner of the net. The final eight minutes were party time.

Bedford Town: Ian Brown, Steve Jackman, Craig Rydeheard, Liam Folds, James Taylor, Darren Sarll, Noel Quinn, Julian Capone, Rene Howe, Drew Roberts , Daniel French, subs, Neil Lazarus, Niki Stewart, Andre Jaraszek, Daniel Purzycki, John Hughes.

St Albans City: George Clark, Richard Thomas, Dave Sargent, Gary Wraight, Miguel De Souza, Chris Seeby ( Steve Castle 52), Scott Oakes (Declan Perkins 90), Adam Parker, Lee Clarke , Steve Watts, Greg Deacon, subs, Wesley Jackman, Neil Gough, Graeme Butler. Referee: J.Lodge.